Vienna Salzburg Day Trip. Vienna is not Austria. To discover a different landscape, head for the region and town of Salzburg. As a native Viennese, I have covered that route several times, usually on my way to the Alps, or over a weekend. If you plan to go for a day and need a reality check for a day trip read my story about an unusually luxurious small group day tour to Salzburg from Vienna.
Vienna Salzburg Day Trip
Vienna Salzburg Day Trip. My starting position was promising: an air-conditioned spacious Mercedes minivan shared with just seven other travellers, and free Wifi and iPads for each of us.
Tour guide and driver Ben was a local resident from Australia. It emerged soon that we meant more to him than heads to count. Calmly and politely, he built up the momentum to turn the way out of Vienna and highway into less of a corridor. Schönbrunn Palace, Lainz Natural Reserve, the Danube Valley of Wachau and Melk Abbey (photo) drifted by, all triggering rich stories about the Habsburg Emperors, the history of Austria and World Cultural Heritage. The further we headed westwards, the more dramatic the landscape turned: Courtesy of Ben, we watched the ‘Sleeping Virgin’ materialising out of hard rock in front of us, rather than passing another mountain range.
Salzkammergut Lake District
Vienna Salzburg Day Trip. After a bit more than two hours a turquoise-coloured lake showed up. Stretching across 19 kilometres, Attersee marked our entrance into Salzkammergut region, internationally appraised for its beauty and pristine landscape. Here is a photo of Hawaiian participants Candy and Nane being photographed by Ben, taken just before my toes dipped into Attersee…
Subsequently, we studied lake Fuschl’s shimmering surface providing a slightly different shade of emerald green. While surrounding half of its shore Ben rolled out the recent history of a pink liquid: International energy drink success Red Bull was headquartered just next to the lake.
The biggest highlight of the journey outside Salzburg city was off-track for large coaches and trains: a lakeside village too picturesque to describe for anyone but Barbara Cartland.
St. Gilgen lies along the shores of Wolfgangsee and is quintessentially Austrian. Most of the houses look like the town hall in the photo. The village lies at the foot of Schafberg mountain and was well known for its bobbin lacing tradition.
We had almost an hour there. I used it for promenading along the shore of Lake St. Wolfgang, discovering very Salzburg-style houses and visiting the church where my Austrian friend Elisabeth got married. My best find was St. Gilgen’s gorgeous local museum: life in a local farmhouse unfolded through original beds, tables, chairs, socks drying in front of a typical tiled stove, a dozen bobbins dangling from an unfinished lace…
Salzburg City Tour
Vienna Salzburg Day Trip. By midday we touched down at Mirabell castle in Salzburg. Local tour guide Martina took over. Many guides either weigh you down with facts or blow hot air at you. Martina wasn’t up to neither, despite Salzburg’s more than 900-year old history and 37 degrees Celsius in the shade. From the gardens of Mirabell and its many Sound-of-Music references we headed across the Salzach bridge into the center.
On the surface, our walk would have passed as an ordinary orientation tour: Mozart’s birth place, Getreidegasse (photo), Residence Gallery, the Cathedral, a few passage ways. What made it different: Martina centered her historic and contemporary references around key questions and observations of any mindful visitor: why Vienna and Salzburg were different, why Salzburg had always been a rich town, the role of Fortress Hohensalzburg, Mozart’s and the Sound of Music‘s many traces, the story behind the medieval trade signs in Getreidegasse, Nazi parades and Italian baroque; how to move around the centre through hidden historic passageways; where Mozart played billiard; where to try the original Mozart chocolates, and how local music festivals transform Salzburg into one big outdoor stage every summer.
Free Time In Salzburg
Vienna Salzburg Day Trip. Martina had established the signposts of Salzburg’s culture scene grown over nine centuries. That made it easy to create our own individual paths of exploration. We had more than two hours free time: I went back to my favourite spots, bought fresh strawberries and a traditional sandwich from the local market, lunched along the Salzach river, did some shopping, and indulged in ice cream coffee at famous Fürst cake shop. (If I hadn’t visited Fortress Hohensalzburg and the fantastic gallery of Residence Palace several times, you would have found me there. Also, have a drink on the spectacular roof terrace of Hotel Stein along the Salzach river.)
At 4.30 pm we whizzed back straight to Vienna, some of us watching the Sound of Music on their in-car iPads, some dozing, checking their emails, or, in my case, writing up their two cents of the day.
The small group tours from Vienna to Salzburg attract individual travellers who care about quality insights and an almost private tour experience. Guides excel at providing relevant context, reaching beyond history to make you understand local current affairs and modern day culture.
To check available tours and dates, and book, just click on Vienna to Salzburg tour.
NOTE: I was invited by the tour operator. All opinions expressed are my own.